Last night we once again gathered for Brewing on Belief, but unlike our normal nights we didn’t enter last night with a set topic or conversation starter, apart from the understanding that we were gathering to fellowship with each other.
Often we stress about the importance of having a goal, a necessary outcome, never wanting our students to leave a meeting without having a new insight or a grand revelation. It is easy as a leader to get lost in that pattern and keep pressing students week-in and week-out. However, students are not operating under the same concept of program goals and meeting pre-set expectations. Students must balance school with work, a social life, having or working towards a significant other, not to mention family expectations and building friendships. Because of all these things pulling on students, its remarkable that they put importance on making it out to our programs, but they are also hungry for spiritual fulfillment. Due to this hunger, we want to feed them every chance we can get, but we often focus too much on feeding them what we think they need instead of listening to what they really need.
Last night, a planned fellowship night, truly drove this point home for me. The only “hard” or “probing” question asked last night was asking about potential topics we might discuss following spring break, and even then, the stresses of mid-terms had brains shut off. But even with shut off brains, we had a normal turnout numbers wise. I attribute this to the fact that the students knew that we were offering a safe place (with free chips and dip) to truly turn off and just relax with a group that they see each Wednesday anyways.
When you can utilize it, fellowship provides an opportunity to really connect with students, and the nature of this gathering creates a deepening of the bonds that you have already started to develop. While you can’t expect them to stick with you if you are having only fellowship each week, aligning these nights with the calendar and times when you know students will not be able to be fully present, can be greatly beneficial.
We have built a community at Brewing on Belief, one that is open to the comings and goings of new and returning members, but a community nonetheless that is comfortable joining together each week. And an occasional night of fellowship during the semester only serves to further tighten that sense of community as we discuss new topics like the strength of our March Madness brackets or spring break plans.